What Is Academic Dishonesty?

Academic dishonesty is a long-standing problem in our society. It poses a significant threat to the entire goal of education, preventing students from gaining the necessary knowledge and skills for their future life and career. So far, however, the educational community hasn’t come up with any viable and agreed-upon solution for how to reduce it. 

In the struggle for integrity, it is crucial to understand what academic dishonesty is and what pushes students to misconduct. In this article, we will provide you with the definition of academic cheating, its key forms, and common academic dishonesty examples to help you combat integrity breaches in your educational institution.

What Is Academic Dishonesty?

Academic dishonesty, also known as academic misconduct, refers to any act that violates the rules of integrity. It can relate to any type of academic activity such as learning, teaching, researching, etc. Some of the common reasons that push students to break the rules of the ethical code include but are not limited to:

  • Poor time management
  • Academic overload
  • Lack of interest in a certain subject
  • Desire to live up to high expectations
  • Fear of failure

What Is Academic Integrity and Why Does It Matter?

Academic integrity is a core principle of education which means that students, educators, and other members of the educational community act according to certain values, such as honesty, fairness, respect, trust, and others. Academic honesty usually implies, among other things:

  • Expressing individually developed ideas
  • Citing all sources of information
  • Being honest during exams and other assignments
  • Working individually unless being asked to complete the assignment in a group

Integrity is a crucial element in both learning and professional life. Here are the main reasons why:

  1. Protects reputation. Ethical behavior helps students gain trust and respect among their peers and educators. Academic misconduct may not only leave a stain on a student’s reputation but also become a serious obstacle in their professional career.
  2. Provides knowledge. Academic work usually involves many challenges, thus helping students to master analytical, problem-solving, and other important skills, while developing individual ideas. By opting for shortcutting, they may not acquire the necessary knowledge to effectively continue their learning journey or be successful in their future job.
  3. Delivers value. Integrity provides value to academic works and degrees. It allows students to develop authentic ideas and feel proud of their academic accomplishments.

Types of Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty is a general term that includes various forms of unethical acts. Let’s have a look at the most common of them, their definitions, distinguishing features, and examples.


Plagiarism is one of the most widespread types of academic misconduct. It implies copying work, ideas, designs, etc. created by other authors and presenting them as one’s own. Plagiarism exists in many forms, some of which include:

  • a clone copy of materials created by other authors
  • a mixed copy of material from different sources
  • citation errors
  • replacing some words to bypass plagiarism control
  • fabrication of sources, etc.

When it comes to the main reasons that foster plagiarism, it’s necessary to mention the accessibility of information due to technological developments, and students’ lack of knowledge of proper citations. Thus, to prevent your students from cheating in this way, it’s important to discuss with them the importance of information ownership in the digital space, as well as to explain to them how to correctly add sources to their papers.


Cheating is a form of academic dishonesty that refers to using or attempting to use sources or devices that are forbidden during a certain type of assignment. Some of the most common examples involve:

  • using personal notes, course books, or mobile phones during a closed-book examination
  • copying answers from other students
  • letting somebody copy answers from you
  • communicating with other students during a test

Contract Cheating

Contract cheating means that students engage a third party to help them complete a particular assignment. It can involve buying course papers or exam answers from other students or special organizations, asking parents or friends to help with certain academic exercises, downloading an essay from the internet and presenting it as one’s own, etc.

Facilitation of Academic Dishonesty

This type of unethical behavior implies helping other students to cheat or commit other forms of academic dishonesty. Some examples include:

  • unauthorized assistance on an exam or test
  • completing academic work for another student
  • taking an exam for another person
  • providing other students with answers to an assignment


Collusion is a form of academic misconduct implying that students are trying to collaborate to achieve better results on an assignment that should be completed individually. They can unite in groups to share answers during an important assessment, use personal devices to communicate during an exam, etc.

Data Fabrication

Fabrication or falsification relates to misrepresenting or inventing academic information, research results, sources, etc. Some examples include but are not limited to:

  • Inventing data to support theories in a research paper
  • Falsifying sources used in academic work
  • Falsifying grades
  • Changing academic records


Sabotage relates to unethical acts that disrupt the work of others. It can involve, for example, refusal to collaborate with other students to complete group projects, destroying learning materials and books that can be necessary for the studying process of others, revealing confidential information crucial for other students to complete their assignments, etc.


Academic dishonesty relates to the violation of integrity rules, usually to achieve better academic results. It exists in numerous forms, such as plagiarism, cheating, data fabrication and falsification, collusion, and others. 

Regardless of its type, academic cheating has a damaging impact on the entire educational sphere and students themselves. It destroys the academic environment and prevents students from gaining the necessary knowledge and skills for their future life. If you understand the concept of academic misconduct and educate your students about its dangers, you will be able to reduce its impact and establish integrity in your educational institution.


What are some examples of academic dishonesty?

Academic dishonesty can appear in many various forms. Plagiarism implies that students copy the work of others and present it as their own. Cheating examples include using personal devices, unauthorized notes and books during an exam. Collusion implies that students form groups to help each other during important assignments. Moreover, it’s important to remember that assisting in cheating is also considered a form of academic misconduct.

What happens if you commit academic dishonesty?

Educational institutions come up with different rules and regulations regarding academic dishonesty. However, the common penalties and consequences for cheating include reduced grades, failed classes, revoked scholarships, suspension, and expulsion. The choice of the penalty usually depends on the severity of the unethical acts a student has committed.

Is academic dishonesty illegal?

Academic misconduct may result in some legal consequences. When it comes to plagiarism, if the true author finds out that their works or ideas have been plagiarized, they may sue the student for copyright infringement. Moreover, unethical acts may lead to criminal charges if a large bribe or serious fraud took place.

What is the major cause of academic cheating?

Many reasons push students to cheat. The most common of them include poor time management, fear of getting a low grade, desire to help peers, pressure from parents and teachers, disinterest in a particular subject, etc. To prevent your students from breaking the ethical code, it’s crucial to build trustful relationships with them and explain to them the importance of academic honesty.